Alternatives to caffeine provide safe, effective energy source

According to Web MD, more than 68 percent of Americans admitted to being addicted to coffee. College students have many reasons to flock to the energy-boosting substance. It perks up an early morning class, provides stamina for late-night study sessions and gives much needed energy to power through work. While caffeine in moderation is safe, an addiction could lead to serious future health problems.

Caffeine in high doses can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood sugar, uneven nerves and a decrease in bone density.

“Some caffeine is not harmful,” said Peggy Bergeron, a clinical nurse for UNA’s University Health Services. “One to two cups a day can actually help with diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. The problem with too much caffeine intake is when (students) try to get off of it; they can experience bad withdrawal symptoms.”

Some UNA students are familiar with experiencing caffeine withdrawal.

“I drink around 16 ounces of coffee every morning,” said Amber Terry, a pre-pharmacy student at UNA. “On the days I forget-usually if I am running late-I get headaches and become really sluggish. I feel like I need coffee to perform at my best.”

Fortunately, there are some healthier and safer solutions to gaining the much needed energy a college student needs.

“A lot of people don’t realize that proper hydration can help with their energy level,” Bergeron said. “If your body is not properly hydrated, it won’t perform at its optimum level.”

She also suggests that avoiding long naps, regulating a proper sleep schedule, setting a bedtime, getting fresh air and eating protein, such as from dairy or nuts, can help with maintaining a proper energy level.

USA Today also gives suggestions for safe, healthy energy.

They suggest that college students try adding a Vitamin B supplement to their diets. Mood disorders, poor concentration, and depression have all been linked to a Vitamin B deficiency. Working out for small bursts can also bring on energy. Another suggestion is eating smaller, more frequent meals. This allows the body to keep an even calorie usage, which can deter drops in energy.

UNA students can avoid the dangers of caffeine by incorporating safer energy methods into their lifestyles, but cutting out all coffee, sodas and energy drinks can be difficult.

“The best way to cut caffeine is to slowly decrease it week by week,” Bergeron said. “Gradual decrease is better.”

She suggests that the rate of decrease depends on what type of caffeine is consumed on a regular basis. Energy drinks can be more difficult to taper out of a diet than coffee or soda.

Coffee and sodas are easy pick-me-ups for the weary student, but it may be worth the headache to try some safer ways to get that boost.